I have heard many times that smell is the best sense at triggering memories. Sunday’s 11th annual Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival was filled with all types of sensory reminders of times and places that are uniquely brought together and represented on the Lower East Side, specifically on Eldridge Street. The clic-clac of the mahjong tiles being tossed, the tickle of the fresh froth of an egg cream, and the deliciously greasy smell of egg rolls wafting through the street definitely brought memories back for some visitors and hopefully formed new ones for others! I just started my internship here at the Museum two weeks ago and this was my first Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival. The day was a great welcome to the Eldridge Street community.
- Here I am using the best chocolate syrup (Photo Credit: Erika Parry)
The festival was hugely successful at facilitating cultural exchange and a good time. We had the biggest turnout in the history of the festival: more than 9000 people joined us for a marvelous afternoon of activities, story telling, and performances. Please check out our Facebook page for photographs of all the fun!
- Check out that crowd! (Photo Credit: Kate Milford)
The Frank London’s All Star Brass Klezmer Band started the festival off with an energetic and joyous march around the block before the crowds had filled the street. From the first emotive blast of the trumpet, I was filled with an odd sense of nostalgia for a time I never experienced. Something about the location of the synagogue took me to a different time, along with the entertainment, food, and activities that were provided at the festival. Many other people were compelled to share stories of egg creams past, most likely prompted by the classic taste of Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup, key component of the classic Lower East Side beverage. Several visitors even discovered new information about their ancestry with the aid of a genealogy specialist.
- Frank London’s All Star Brass Klezmer Band (Photo Credit: Kate Milford)
The traditional tea ceremony was held with the backdrop of the new rose window from the balcony of the sanctuary, which was certainly not the lone intriguing cultural juxtaposition of the festival. The Chinese paper fan making was a cool favorite, providing relief from the humid afternoon. Edible treats abounded as well, with challah making inside the synagogue and dumpling/kreplach demonstrations on the street.
- Tea ceremony on the upper level (Photo Credit: Erika Parry)
We loved reading people’s tweets about the festival as well! Please continue to post your photos and stories from the day on Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook.
At our annual Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival this past Sunday, I celebrated my 5th year of pouring, stirring and sipping egg creams, the official beverage of the Lower East Side (in my estimation, at least.) Serving egg creams to a crowd of 8,000 is like running a marathon: a true test of endurance, ending in sweet, chocolaty victory. We came, we stirred, and we conquered, selling out our entire supply!
You may be wondering: what exactly is an egg cream? According to Wikipedia,
“An egg cream is a classic beverage consisting of chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer, probably dating from the late 19th century, and is especially associated with Brooklyn, home of its alleged inventor, candy store owner Louis Auster. It contains neither eggs nor cream. The egg cream is almost exclusively a fountain drink; although there have been several attempts to bottle it, none has been wholly successful, as its fresh taste and characteristic head requires mixing of the ingredients just before drinking. The drink can be compared to a traditional ice cream soda, though it contains no ice cream.”
To make an egg cream at home in an 8-ounce cup, here is a quick recipe handed down from John Heller, pictured above. At Eldridge Street, he is the Grand Poobah of the Cream, and indeed taught me how to make my very first. I’ve since used this recipe hundreds of times, and it never fails to impress:
- Pour Fox’s U-Bet syrup into cup, approximately 1 inch thick. Accept no imitations.
- Add a splash of milk about the same height, stir vigorously.
- Add seltzer to the mixture, ending slightly below the top of cup. Beware! Overflowing is an occupational hazard.
- Stir, serve and enjoy!
Are you a pickle person? Is deli your delicacy? Love lime rickies? Tell us about your favorite East Side Treat!
When I first envisioned a Chinese Jewish Festival more than ten years ago, I thought it would be good for the neighborhood and for our mission to tell the story of the immigrants who made and make our neighborhood special. I imagined Chinese and Jewish artists and musicians sitting side by side informing the public about their traditions. What I did not expect, but experienced starting at our very first festival back in 2000, is the deep feeling of community and joy that emanates from all the participants and festival goers – this is a New York Moment.
Walking south on Eldridge Street from the B Train on Grand Street, you are in Chinatown: dumpling shops and markets sell more than 20 varieties of soy sauce and all sorts of dried foods in bins, fish so fresh that it still moves and store signs in Chinese with auspicious names like Prosperity Dumplings or Good Lock Locksmith; there is a Buddhist temple, too. However, if you look closely, you might notice Harris Levy Fine Linens and remember that your bubbe went there to buy her wedding linens; or you might see a tenement with Moorish windows and a faded Star of David on the façade – a sign that the building was once a synagogue.
If you’ve been lucky enough to visit us on the first Sunday in June over the past 10 years, you might have thought you had stumbled into a whole other wonderful world. You hear strains of klezmer music and see folks dancing a hora. If you stay a bit longer, the strains of Ray Musike’s Romania Romania slowly change into a Chinese folk song led by bandmaster Mr. Hoy and members of the Qi Shu Feng Peking Opera transform themselves into monkey kings and tigers and flip through the air. You shake your head twice, no three times, and enter the 1887 landmark Eldridge Street Synagogue. Sitting side by side is a Hebrew scribe, demonstrating this sacred art, with a Chinese calligrapher. A bit deeper into the sanctuary there is a tefillin maker, a most holy man who so loves his work that you, too become intrigued by his story and his ritual objects and you feel that you might have just stepped into a shop in Jerusalem.
You learn that the synagogue is still a place of worship but just as important that this neighborhood was always an immigrant neighborhood, that just as years ago the shops had Yiddish signs and sold yarmulkes and tallisim and prayer books, now there are Chinese signs and the mamma loshen and lukshen has been transformed to Chinese and pulled noodles and somewhere this odd juxtaposition of Chinese and Jews has turned into a day of mutual respect and sharing. It’s New York after all, where benign indifference can turn into neighborly love, and egg roll meets egg cream for an afternoon of shared delight
-Hanna Griff-Sleven, Director of Programs
Here in New York, winter is in full bloom. Over the past few weeks we’ve experienced snow, freezing rain and winds that seemed likely to lift our historic building all the way to Kansas! This coming Sunday, January 31st from 1-5 PM, join us as we wish away the winter blues with our first-ever Tu B’shvat Winter Garden Festival, a free event celebrating the Jewish Arbor Day and environmentalism.
You may be asking yourself: what in the world is Tu B’shvat? We admit, it is certainly one of the more obscure Jewish holidays, but its focus on celebrating the bounty of the earth and conservation seemed a natural fit with our building’s green restoration. And there is never a bad reason for a free festival! We see this as the winter counterpart to our fabulous Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival, which we host every June in celebration of the Jewish and Chinese cultures that share Eldridge Street.
The name Tu B’shvat is actually the date of the holiday, the 15th of the month of S’hvat. The holiday is first mentioned in the Mishna, where the ancient rabbis have a little throwdown over the date. They discuss the four “New Years” in the Jewish calendar (I wonder what they used for the ball drop in ancient Babylon?):
The first of Nisan – new year for kings and festivals – The first of Elul – new year for animal tithes. Rabbi Elazar and Rabbi Shimon say: the first of Tishrei. – The first of Tishrei- new year for calculation of the calendar, sabbatical years and jubilees, for planting and sowing – The first of Shevat – new year for trees, according to the school of Shamai; The school of Hillel say: the fifteenth of Shevat (Rosh Hashana:2a)
Image via Ironic Sans
Our buddy Hillel seems to have won this argument, since the New Year for Trees has been celebrated on the 15th of S’hvat ever since. At Eldridge, we’ll be green-ing out with kosher organic wine tasting fromTishbi
winery, a seder
featuring many varieties of dried fruits and nuts (led by me), kid-friendly planting activities, family tree making and more! Check out the event on our Facebook
page for more information (and become a fan while you’re there!) For a taste of spring in the dead of winter, this is one event you won’t want to miss.